David Stromberg at Harvard Book Store
The Definitive Bilingual Edition
in conversation with JAMAICA KINCAID
March 27, 2023
7:00 PM ET
Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138
This event is free; no tickets are required.
Harvard Book Store welcomes DAVID STROMBERG—writer, translator, literary scholar, and editor for the Isaac Bashevis Singer Literary Trust—for a discussion of his new book Simple Gimpl: The Definitive Bilingual Edition. He will be joined in conversation by world renowned author and Harvard professor, JAMAICA KINCAID.
A Return to In-Person Events
Harvard Book Store is excited to be back to in-person programming. To ensure the safety and comfort of everyone in attendance, the following Covid-19 safety protocols will be in place at all of our Harvard Book Store events until further notice:
- Face coverings are required of all staff and attendees when inside the store. Masks must snugly cover nose and mouth.
About Simple Gimpl
Isaac Bashevis Singer’s “Gimpl tam” was published on March 30, 1945, in the obscure Yiddish-language journal Idisher kempfer, about a month before the Nazi surrender. A story of bullying and the potential for revenge, it tells the deathbed confession of an orphaned baker who is targeted by his own community for ridicule and practical jokes. Gimpl has come to be seen as a symbol of the Jewish people in the diaspora, and, by synecdoche, minorities in general. Should they be passive in the face of aggression? Or should they defend themselves? What role must the individual of that minority play when the pack behaves badly?
When Irving Howe and Eliezer Greenberg opted to include “Gimpl tam” in their Treasury of Yiddish Tales, Howe asked Saul Bellow to help with the translation. It was finished in a single sitting and published in 1953 in The Partisan Review as “Gimpel the Fool”―the version that has since been canonized as one of the fundamental stories of the twentieth century. Yet, unlike every other major work of Singer’s published in his lifetime, the author had no involvement in the English translation. In 2006, Joseph Landis, editor of Yiddish, published a draft play script titled “Simple Gimpl,” made by Singer directly from the Yiddish original―the closest extant rendition of the story in the author’s own translation. Literary scholar David Stromberg has completed Singer’s translation, allowing readers to see another dimension of the original. This definitive edition, a treat for literature lovers, features Singer’s story in Yiddish along with the two English versions. Having them together shows Gimpl as anything but a fool―but rather someone accepting the complexity of his life and faith.
Praise for Simple Gimpl
“[Singer] is a spellbinder as clever as Scheherazade; he arrests the reader at once, transports him to a far place and a far, improbable time and does not let him go until the end.” —Jean Stafford, The New Republic
“A peerless storyteller, Singer restores the sheer enchantment with story, with outcome, with what-happens-next that has been denied most readers since their adolescence.” —David Boroff, Saturday Review
“Singer is a genius. He has total command of his imagined world." —Irving Howe, The New Republic
“Extraordinarily beautiful . . . It's the integrity of the human imagination that Singer conveys so beautifully.” —Alfred Kazin, The New Leader
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